Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wednesday's Words for July 7, 2010

Except for a small, six by six area outside my back door, the entire property owned by the Ashburys in this small Southern Ontario town is hilly. To be more precise, our house is perched between two old river terraces. The front yard (all 8 feet of it) meets the sidewalk at about a 60 degree angle. Shortly after we moved in, Mr. Ashbury edged this and inset railroad ties to give the front yard the appearance, at least, of being level.

We have a front porch, wonderful for sitting on, one that is covered so when it rains, and winds permitting, we can sit out on it. Our house is also situated on a corner of two streets, neither of which sees much traffic.

Late last summer, as part of the “stimulus” spending our provincial government underwrote, crews were hired by the county to put accessible curbs in each of the four corners of our intersection. I didn’t know that’s what they were doing at the time, and I was a little curious why the curb next to our house wasn’t done.

When the crew had finished and left, a man from the public works department came to the door to inform me that the crew had been unable to do our curb because of the railroad ties.

He further told me that according to their records, our porch steps (leading from the top of the porch to the sidewalk) did not exist.

His contention was that a variance agreement had been signed, the steps did not appear on the documentation, so these steps must have been put in illegally.

He seemed to not believe me when I explained they had come with the house when we purchased it in 1992. The bottom line was, those steps would have to go, because the bottom step rested on the sidewalk, and the sidewalk had to be repaired. No hurry, this minor bureaucrat assured me last summer. As long as the job was done this year.

Our eldest said this would not be a problem, simple job, no sweat, and he and my beloved set this past Sunday as the day for demolition. The plan was quite simple. They arranged to borrow a small jack-hammer (which they both have experience using), and were confident that the old stairs—seven in all—would be gone, and the new wooden ones constructed (at the side of the porch instead of the front) in no time at all.

Beloved manned the jackhammer and turned it on. All in attendance had personal safety equipment, and stood back a respectful distance. Man, was that machine ever noisy. It didn’t bother me, but I can’t say the same for the neighbors across the street who had partied hearty until the wee hours the night before. But it was, after all, after 9 a.m.

The noise continued and I kept my eyes trained on the spot where jackhammer bit met concrete, as I waited to see that first, top step demolished. And I waited. And I waited. Smoke began to rise from the point of contact. Finally, concrete crumbled under the combined force of dedicated male and modern mechanical technology.

The debris gathered measured perhaps a half a cup.

Words were said by my beloved and our first born that are best left off these pages. “Now what?” I asked.

Well every good plan has a backup plan, in this case known as a sixteen-pound sledgehammer. The men took turns wailing on that first step. Conversation ebbed, and brows sweat. Finally the top step was destroyed. Not a hollow stair as everyone expected and assumed, but solid concrete, with round pieces of granite mixed in for good measure.

The men conferred, and set back to work, with the backup plan to the backup plan, which was to focus on the stairs that had to go: the two at the bottom on the sidewalk.

I may use the remaining four steps as shelves for flower boxes.


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